It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, May 27, 2012

South Monastery

We were supposed to dive on a tech boat on Saturday.  We were planning a deeper dive, so we had gas that really wasn't usable inside of the bay.  It had been crazy windy for most of the second half of the week, and we talked to Jim on Friday and he said the forecast was that it wouldn't let up by tomorrow.  But we all really wanted to dive, especially considering the epic viz the weekend before.  So we drove down Saturday morning anyway.  As we neared the coast of Monterey, it was super foggy.  It was actually both super foggy and super windy -- what the frack?  It was so foggy that drift deco would have been a no-go, and with the wind as it was, there was really no point in trying to wait out the fog anyway... there was no way we were getting out of the bay.  And no place to dive in the bay with our gas!  Boohoo.  To top it all off, it was raining at K-dock, so pretty much just a crap day all around.  So instead we headed to breakfast.  We didn't really have any other plans for diving that weekend, but we figured we'd do something.  On Sunday morning, I looked at the conditions, and decided we should just go down to Monterey and find someplace to dive.  Since I made this decision on Sunday morning, we got a very late start.  I think we left the house around 10.  There was, not surprisingly, some traffic on the way down to Monterey.  Our first stop was Lobos, which had a line of cars waiting to be let in.  I ran up to the ranger station to see if there were any no-shows, and there were not.  So we retreated to Monastery.  It was a nice sunny day, so of course there were a fair amount of people on the beach.  There were surprisingly few divers, though maybe that's because we got there so late.  We did run into Eric (Sunday guy) on the north end.  We dove the south end though.

The water was quite calm overall, but there were occasional bigger sets coming through.  It was super windy, with whitecaps just off of the beach.  We walked our tables over to the top of the beach, and then walked our rigs over to the tables.  Then we got into our suits and went back to gear up.  Once in our gear, we went through our gear checks, when I found that my wing was self-venting from the OPV.  Rob tinkered with it a bit and kept telling me it was "fixed" and I'd fill it, and it would hold gas, but then after venting, I'd fill it again and it wouldn't hold gas.  So finally I got out of my gear, walked back to the van and fetched a wrench.  While I was at the van, Eric appeared, and I tried to convince him to give me his wing, but it turned out he was doing another dive, so he wouldn't go for it :P  Once back to our tables, Rob took the whole thing apart, did something with the wrench, and then it would hold gas (for real).  So I got back into my gear, we did our gear checks again, and headed into the water.  That was uneventful.  We swam out a bit past the start of the kelp patch, and dropped in about 20 feet.  It was pretty surgy there with lots of kelp salad swirling around on the bottom, but once we got a bit deeper, it was fine, and the viz was pretty good.  It wasn't epic, but it was good, maybe 30 to 40 feet.  I have definitely seen cleaner, bluer water at Monastery though.  Rob was more impressed with the viz than I was, so maybe my standards are just too high.  It was pretty dark under the kelp canopy of course, so maybe that affected my impression.

We pretty much just followed the kelp forest out, always without site of the edge of the forest.  At some point, we swam over a little sand patch, which just a few pieces of kelp and not much reef below us.  I was signalling something to Rob, when he pointed behind me, and I turned around and got buzzed by a sea lion.  Of course my hero cam was still in my pocket :P  The sea lion buzzed us each a couple of times and then headed off.  I got my camera out after that, guaranteeing that he (or his friends) would not return, and indeed that was the only pinniped siting of the dive.  Rob made me pose for some super shallow kelp shots, which always make me feel like I'm going to barf or pass out.  After a couple of passes of that, we both had to take a minute to recover.  Staying still at 5 feet without exhaling is hard!  We saw quite a few lingcods, several very large ones.  Other than that, the swim out didn't turn up anything too interesting.  It's been a really long time since I've been to south Monastery, and I was a bit disappointed.  It just didn't seem to have nearly as much color as I remembered.  There were just not that many patches of really colorful encrusting life like I remember.  I was wondering if this was due to the barnacle invasion... maybe everything else just hasn't recovered yet?  It seemed like there was tons of little red kelp salad everywhere, and not so much of the bright colors.

We eventually turned, I think because I was cold (it was 46 degrees, and I wasn't wearing my best undergarment, brrrr...).  On the way in, we stopped just a couple of times for some photos.  We found a nice school of blue rockfish, which we both documented.  Eventually we got back to the shallows and once again it was quite surgy.  We split off from the kelp and headed in over the sand.  Watching the kelp bits flying around beneath me made me a bit queasy on the swim in.  Eventually I thumbed it at like 15 feet.  We surfaced, and I thought that the conditions had picked up a bit.  But it turned out that we just happened to surface during a bit set.  I think the conditions had actually calmed down while we were under.  By the time we got to the surf zone, it was an easy stroll out of the water (hahaha).  I told Rob afterward (after I made it to the top of the berm, without falling over in the sand) that I think it was my most graceful exit from Monastery ever.  There was no point where Rob looked over at me like he thought he was going to have to come and retrieve me from the water :)  It was a slow walk up the berm though.  When we got back to our tables, I paused for a moment and then continued to the van (by which point Rob already had it open).

After cleaning up our gear and changing, we walked over to the north side to see if Eric wanted to get lunch (or whatever you call the meal at 3 or 4), but he had some time constraints, so we headed to RG by ourselves for a snack, since we planned to have an actual meal at the dinner hour.  The wind had really died down by the time we were finished at Monastery; Rob called Jim (who was on the boat in the bay) who reported that it was still snotty as hell up there... I guess the direction had just shifted so we were protected.  When we passed the bay on the way out of town, it sure looked snotty.

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